Shopping Locally, Giving Locally

Union Avenue Books, Post Expansion, 517 Union Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018
Owner Nanci Solomon, Rala, 112 W. Jackson Ave., Knoxville, March 2017

As the last weekend before Christmas approaches, it’s a good time to remember that many local businesses, as well as local charities, have their annual success determined by what happens in the next few days. A strong holiday season can help a small business survive the early months of the new year when business isn’t very strong. A weak holiday sales season can mean the end of a small business.

When a lot of us think of local businesses, we think of downtown. Downtown probably does have a high concentration of local businesses, but if by local you mean locally owned, please know that not every business downtown is locally owned. Conversely, there are thousands of locally owned businesses in every part of the city, county, and surrounding areas.

Union Avenue Books, 517 Union Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

In the past these businesses struggled in competition with each other. With the advent of chains, many locally owned businesses were destroyed by volume buying they could not replicate. As online commerce has become the norm, many chains are struggling with brick-and-mortar stores. Business insider reports the chains will close around 9300 stores across the country in 2019.

The Internet, for all its good points, has aided and abetted in the demise of local business. In addition to e-commerce, which takes your dollars, potentially, from Knoxville to any other place on earth, search engines will help you locate businesses in your city, but often they are chains. Sometimes it’s hard to know that.

Bliss and Tori Mason Shoes, 445 Gay Street, Knoxville, November 2017

As for charities and non-profits, 30% of their annual giving comes in December. Just like retail businesses, a good December makes for a good year and a bad December can result in the charity having to cut back. Have you given some thought to making a donation to your favorite charities this December? Better, have you considered making a small monthly donation?

Earlier this year, I announced that Inside of Knoxville has teamed with Knoxville Page to promote local businesses. We’ve been fortunate to have brought in enough revenue to add over 1,500 businesses to our page. If you search Knoxville Page for a business or service type, you’ll get results listing only locally owned businesses. We’ve made every effort to make sure that you are really seeing local in our search results. That’s quite different from googling to see what businesses are nearby.

Knoxville Page Co-Founder Anthony Ragland presents a check to Alanna McKissack of Keep Knoxville Beautiful, December 2019
Knoxville Page Co-Founder Anthony Ragland presents a check to Francis Graffeo of The Joy of Music School, December 2019

In addition, we’ve taken some steps to broaden our online offerings to accommodate our urge to shop online. While the section is small, there are dozens of items that can be purchased online. The best way to search is to browse through the “shop all products” at the bottom of the “Shop Local” page. At this time most of the products are from a few stores, particularly the Art Market Gallery

Another way local dollars are diverted from local merchants to national chains is through the sale of gift cards. Market Watch projects that annual sales of gift cards, which are over $300,000,000,000, will top the $500 billion point by 2025. The overwhelming amount of these cards are for national brick-and-mortar or online brands. Desperate for a gift this weekend and see a kiosk of gift cards in your grocery store/convenience store/Walmart? Guess how many local businesses will be represented?

Knoxville Page Co-Founder Anthony Ragland presents a check to Patrick Riggins of the Love Kitchen, Knoxville, December 2019
Knoxville Page Co-Founder Anthony Ragland presents a check to Paul James and Jack Neely of the Knoxville History Project, Knoxville, December 2019

If you are determined to get local gift cards, you’ll need to check with each business to see if they have them and then walk, bike, bus, or drive there to get them. We’ve only made a start, but we’ve aggregated twelve different locally owned businesses’ gift cards. You can buy them with a simple click and give local gift cards, keeping our Knoxville dollars at home. We hope to add more in the coming months. If you’d like to see your business represented, contact Anthony Ragland at

So, please shop local. Use Knoxville Page to find local businesses. Use the Maker City Directory. Visit local merchants in their retail spaces. Downtown has lots of gift items at locally owned businesses like Rala, 215 Magnolia, Boldure Gifts, Mind Body Realign, American Huckleberry, Fizz, Earth to Old City, Tree and Vine, CityFid-O, Mark Nelson Denim, Nothing Too Fancy, Eddie’s Health Shoppe, Knoxville Soap and Candle, Knoxville Visitors Center, Art Market Gallery, Bliss, Union Avenue Books, Jacks of Knoxville, East Tennessee History Center, and more. Support them. Especially give a little love to those in the Old City who are currently more isolated due to viaduct and ramp construction.

And support your favorite local charities. We have hungry people in Knoxville this Christmas, so supporting local hunger organizations is a good choice. And there are other fine choices as well. You see in the photos the ones we supported this time around. I would encourage you to support them. They each do great work. As an example of how local dollars stay at home, Francis Graffeo of Joy of Music School said our donation would go toward instrument repair, which will be done by local artisans. (Note: Even the big checks used in these photographs were produced locally by High Resolutions.)

I know we’re in the last-minute rush, and we’ll all mix our shopping between local and national. We’ll go online and go to the mall and make some purchases at chains. Just think about the massive impact your dollars can have locally and consider sharing some of that love locally. It’s our community. Let’s love it.